Triple threat tutoring

PEOPLE who can sing, dance and act are known as the "triple threats" of the performing arts industry.

A group of teenagers have this week worked with former local and NIDA graduate, Shannon Dooley on all three, during a musical theatre masterclass at the Manning Entertainment Centre.

As part of the NIDA Open Program, the drama school sends an experienced tutor with practical professional experience to Taree for a week each January to work with older teens on different aspects of theatre.

It provides participants with access to NIDA's expertise and shares the main school's emphasis on practical training.

Shannon has enjoyed the week.

"It's great. I love working with them. It's nice to be working with kids who are choosing to do this because they are passionate about it," she said.

"You can really create something with them because they have an opinion on what is going on. It's really a collaboration in creating a piece of theatre.

"They give ideas and there is much more dialogue."

During the week they have been working on two songs, the Telephone Song from Bye Bye Birdie and then a Stephen Sondheim song.

"They are two contrasting songs.

"The second song we are going to take out of context and give them a set of circumstances."

Some of the skills they are learning include singing in harmony, working as an ensemble and characterisation.

Taree-based piano teacher and experienced musical director Don Secomb worked with the students on learning the songs.

The five days culminate with a half an hour open session at the theatre from 4.30pm on Friday, which will be attended by family and friends of the participants.

Shannon said parents of young children who may not be old enough to attend the workshop, but who are passionate about the performing arts are invited to bring their children along to see what it is all about.

Growing up in Killabakh, Shannon studied at NIDA for four years, completing a one year singer, actor, dancer course and then the full-time three-year Bachelor of Dramatic Art (Acting).

She has been a NIDA tutor for the past eight years and has professional experience both on stage and in television, including appearances on East West 101 (SBS), Packed to the Rafters (Network 7) and Home and Away (Network 7).

Workshop participant, 16-year-old Alex Blenkin, relished the opportunity to work with Shannon.

"I think it's one of the best opportunities the Manning has to offer. We're really lucky to have local talent and it is a great experience for NIDA to be teaching the rest of us.

"I love musical theatre. It's one of the things I want to go into when I'm older."

Shannon said the NIDA workshops also give young local people a chance to see what is possible.

"I know growing up in a small town it is insular and you wonder what is beyond that. I went out of town quite a bit and had an opportunity to see what is possible.

"It opens your eyes to the possibilities out there and that people can make their dreams come true."

"It's so important to meet people you know that say you can do this, and be that."

Manning Entertainment Centre manager Jeremy Miller enjoys having the NIDA tutors visit and said it benefits the young people to hear what the industry is really like.

"The theatre has always had a strong focus on youth in theatre

"Shannon started as a 10-year-old on this stage and went on to a professional career."

A couple of years ago a group of students who attended the workshop went on to form MYCE (Manning Youth Creative Ensemble), which meets regularly at the theatre and works towards regular performances.

Through this forum, Jeremy said he has been able to help direct the topics the NIDA workshops cover each year based on what the young people are interested in.

He said Taree Arts Council's Cabaret created a lot of interest in musical theatre.

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